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NH Raises Smoking Age to 19

The minimum age for buying tobacco products is going up in New Hampshire from 18 to 19.

It's a controversial step, but one that health advocates say doesn't go far enough.

Allyssa Thompson and her colleagues at Breathe New Hampshire pressed state lawmakers to raise the tobacco sales age to 21.

"Our brains are still developing into our mid-20s," Thompson said.

But the recently-passed law only bumps the legal age up by one year. Thompson says it does nothing to prevent young people from becoming addicted.

"We're disappointed," she said. "We are trying to protect youth and young people from being targeted from the vape and tobacco industries."

Small business owners nationwide have pushed back on increasing the tobacco sales age, saying it could hurt their bottom line.

George Melhem says that's likely true, since tobacco sales are a huge part of his business at BP Pelham and Discount Tobacco.

"I'm going to say at least two-thirds," Melham said.

His store is just minutes from Massachusetts, where people have to be 21 to buy tobacco products.

"We get a lot of people coming over the border, and they come here and buy their vapes and cigarettes," Melhem said.

His store will survive an increase in the sales age, but Melhem's afraid it's a step toward banning certain products all together, like what's happening in Massachusetts, which recently banned the sale of all vape products temporarily.

"Their businesses are really suffering right now," Melhem said. "My friend says in two months, he's losing 10 grand."

For now, Melhem's sales are skyrocketing, thanks to people like Joe Bordeleau. He's from Lowell, but due to Massachusetts' ban, he made the drive to Melhem's store.

"No complaints here," Melhem said, laughing. "Hopefully, they don't ban it in New Hampshire anytime soon."

Advocates say they'll continue to push lawmakers to increase the sales age to 21.

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